NEW YORK, September 12, 2012 ( – Delivering the John Carroll Society Lecture Monday night, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke of the defense of religious freedom. Among various examples of ‘religiously driven’ human rights ventures that have benefited America, Cardinal Dolan pointed to the pro-life movement as “the premier civil rights movement of today.”

The Cardinal said that threats to religious freedom are “abundant” today, but chose to single out two such threats. “One comes from those called secularists, who will tolerate religion as long as it’s just considered some eccentric private hobby for superstitious, unenlightened folks, limited to an hour on the Sabbath, with no claim to any voice in the public square,” he said.

“The second omen comes from direct intrusion of the government into the very definition of a church’s minister, ministries, message, and meaning,” he added.  “Thus, to say it again, the wide ecumenical and inter-religious outrage over the HHS mandate is not about its coverage of chemical contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, – – in spite of the well-oiled mantra from our opponents – –  but upon the raw presumption of a bureau of the federal government to define a church’s minister, ministry, message, and meaning.”

The Cardinal said the message to government from people of faith is simple: “Protect our free exercise [of religion], then leave us alone.”

Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, quoted Alexis de Tocqueville to stress the severity of the matter. “Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot,” the 19th century Frenchman wrote. “Religion . . . is more needed in democratic republics than in any others.”